Sino Ambitions: Committed to Economic Development
(Fmr.) Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, (Fmr.) High Commissioner of Pakistan to India
China has continued to pursue its development agenda with an unswerving objective of becoming a modern developed state by 2047. On this journey, it is now facing headwinds and is trying its best to avoid distractions posed by the US and the West. As things stand, it is expected that China will stay steadfast to the course of economic cooperation and development.
As for US-China relations, these will continue to be marked by strategic competition. Efforts are now being made to keep channels of communication open and manage relations in a narrow band of cooperation. However, the tone and tenor of the relations remain adversarial. As for western alliances, the geopolitical approach of ringing China with a chain of maritime partnerships, such as AUKUS, is counterproductive. China continues to react with maturity and is unlikely to change its geo-economic preferences, even as it takes actions to clear its backyard and periphery of hostile forces. Time and again, the Chinese have demonstrated their alignment to the international order signified by the UN Charter principles, based on sovereign equality. They have always proceeded from this premise and taken positions based on principles.
What remains at stake is the future of global order. By reversing globalisation and disrupting supply chains the west had intended to hurt China's interests. But the Chinese think long term and President Xi is taking steps now to overcome the effects of global economic turmoil.
China's influence is also increasing in the southern hemisphere. The Belt and Road Initiative and the emphasis on trade and economic cooperation is attractive and has a great appeal in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Pakistan on its part is also a beneficiary of Chinese policies, with CPEC being a flagship project of the BRI. As things proceed, the extension of CPEC to Afghanistan and beyond must remain the flag sign of this cooperation, in order for it to rightfully reap its economic and strategic potential, even as establishing economic corridors through Afghanistan to Central Asia remains a distant dream. Afghanistan has not gained stability after NATO's exit, as was expected. What was less expected was the lack of reciprocity to Pakistan's efforts to engage with the Taliban and the good will shown.
In South Asia, as a whole as well, cooperation for development is now under stress. India has opted to play geo-politics by aligning itself with the US policy to contain China at multiple fronts. While this might slow down the ambitions of the latter, looking at the current global context, geo-politics is unlikely to upend geo-economics, especially at a scale and magnitude that China is envisioning.
Through all this, China has been a time-tested friend and continues to help Pakistan achieve self-sufficiency in national defence and economic development. As the government makes efforts to negotiate its way out of political uncertainty and a desperate economic situation, Chinese support will remain critical.
While energy and infrastructure projects under CPEC have registered success, overarchingly progress under the Corridor has gone slow, largely due to the political instability in Pakistan. Industrialisation aspects of CPEC are yet to start in a meaningful manner. This will happen only after political stability is restored to Pakistan.